A lot has happened since Marc Gasol had season-ending surgery a year ago this past week to fix his broken right foot.
The nine-year NBA veteran has flourished from changing his game this season to become arguably the best stretch-5 in the league, he was named an All-Star for the third time in his career and first in two years, and he’s become sought-after for his style upgrade that includes photo shoots in the works with GQ and Esquire in Spain.
“I’ve always been a very confident man, and now I have different interests,” Gasol told the NBPA. “I think life is about growing, and I’m very excited for what’s to come.”
Starting on the court, Gasol’s evolution began last summer when new Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale had the vision that his center could play the stretch-5 position like Chris Bosh did in Miami. That’s where, while Fizdale was a Heat assistant from 2008-2016, Bosh upped his three-point makes and attempts every year with the team through 2014, during which they went to the Finals that year, and won the championship in 2012 and ’13.
When Fizdale presented the idea to Gasol of taking four three-pointers per game, the mostly elbow shooter and back-to-the-basket scorer also saw that potential. (He’s now averaging 3.6 attempts per game.) Gasol had always felt that he could shoot threes, but was never comfortable enough to do it in games. So last summer he started launching 500 long balls per day, developing muscle memory in his arms and getting adjusted to the distance with balance in his legs.
By the time training camp arrived last September, Gasol’s offseason work translated to the team’s scrimmages and he gained further confidence in the first few regular-season games. He credits his teammates being a “big part” of his change, as they would tell him on the court if he was having any doubts, “Keep shooting. You’re really good at it.” And with that extra push, he realized what his new shooting did for the team.
“I always like challenges,” the 32-year-old said. “And when you have a challenge of stepping out all the way to the three-point line, and creating lanes and angles and more space for the guards, I’m all for it. So I think it’s good always to have as many tools in your toolbox.”
Gasol has also been effective as a long-range shooter trailing in transition. While that’s come with confidence—shooting without hesitation on a fast break—he takes advantage when his big-man defender hedges back to protect the rim or helps guarding the Grizzlies’ main penetrator. Sometimes Gasol notices that his defender will still give him space in early offense, thinking he’s going to head towards the block.
That’s all come with the league still getting adjusted to Gasol being a consistent three-point threat. But he said there’s still a learning curve with his new craft.
“There’s times that you might just float around on the three-point line and you want to get to the paint, but you might have to be patient,” he said. “You may still want to be in the action and create, but you become more of a decoy coy playing that far out. You want to mix the roles to help your teammates.”
After shooting 12-for-66 (18.2 percent) from three-point range in his first eight seasons—including 0-for-1 in each of his first two—Gasol is now 77-for-193 (39.9 percent) through 53 games. That’s led to his career high in points (20.8 per game), while averaging 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals for the current playoff-bound Grizzlies. Behind his scoring increase is also his improved Dirk Nowitzki-esque one-legged fadeaway.
“It’s kind of the hardest shot to stop,” Gasol said. “My go-to [move] would be my right hand to the middle [of the paint], and if you take that away, [the fadeaway] is my second read.”
In addition, he’s dishing out a career-high 4.2 assists per game, which derives from setting up for more three-pointers along the arc. With being further out, and having the ability to put the ball on the floor, he’s usually able to take a second defender with him on the drive, clearing more room for a pass.
“I’ve always been able to pass, but now it changes being a few feet back more because now you have to make two plays at one,” he said. “You’re not only reading your guy, but you’re reading the next guy behind. There’s more space, there’s better rotation and you can make different reads. And now coach wants me to bring the ball up more often to set up the offense.”
In the past, former Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins created a high-low action for Gasol (high; orchestrate the offense) and Zach Randolph (low; position himself in the post). It’s a setup that’s still in place with Gasol at the high post, utilizing his passing skills when his teammates run off of dribble hand-offs and pin-down screens. He has the court awareness to read cutters, players running the baseline and those setting up for corner threes. He’s so skilled that he can throw no-look passes, like the standout one he made this season over his head from three-quarters court.
What’s helped Gasol become a key playmaker on the perimeter, with his legs under him for longer shooting and his mobility to attack the basket, has been maintaining his lower weight. He’s had a tough time with that since he’s been 18 years old, but fish and vegetables (the latter making up 60 percent of his diet), and working with a nutritionist, has helped him drop to eight percent body fat.
“I’m trying to get to even lower if I can,” he said, “but now I’m in a good place.”
His slimmer frame has also enabled him to become an emerging force in the fashion game.
Gasol’s shift to style started after his daughter, Julia, was born in Sept. 2014. Dad felt he was due for a makeover.
“She opened up my horizon,” he said. “I was, like, ‘I want my daughter to be proud of me when she sees pictures of me when she’s older.’ So I didn’t want her to see me in those baggy jeans and oversized shirts, and old Air Force 1s and they’re all beat up. That was my style for like seven, eight years.”
Gasol had been intrigued with the fashion of his longtime teammate Mike Conley and his collaboration with NBA stylist and image consultant Brandon Williams. “What I saw was Mike building his own look with Brandon,” Gasol said. After Conley introduced Gasol to Williams, whose clientele includes Matt Barnes, Ed Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, the two began working together in Dec. 2015.
More than a year later, Gasol has truly revamped his style.
“It was about building a brand for myself, being more open, doing certain things that I normally wasn’t. So it was curiosity and a sense of growth,” he said. “And when you dress good, you’re feeling good and that pushes your energy and your confidence level. It does wonders for you.”
When Williams first went through Gasol’s closest at his house in Memphis, he observed that his custom-made clothes—many from Ermenegildo Zegna—were oversized. But when Gasol opened up his Pinterest account highlighting different products that he liked, Williams saw a natural sense of style.
“He had all these strong references for what he wanted to do style-wise,” Williams said. “Marc had really good taste and he was really interested in fashion. He just never knew that it was an option for him at being his size. And since that day, [his interest] has grown. I helped him figure out how to wear slim fits, and how to wear tighter pants and tighter suit jackets—things like that.
Williams also factored in Gasol’s personality and playing style to complement his off-the-court style.
“He’s a multi-faceted, new age type of center,” Williams said. “So we made sure that his style kind of reflects that he’s very dominant, but he has a very classy side. He also has different dimensions of his personality. He’s very serious a lot of times on the court, but a very witty jokester off the court. He’s a very fun dude and enjoys all kinds of music. I try to represent all those things in his style.”
A typical conversation between the two of them, usually every other day, starts with Gasol texting Williams a screenshot of something he likes on Instagram, saying, “This coat is dope” or “I love these jeans.” That follows with the most important question being that Gasol is 7’1″: “Can we get this in my size?” While Gasol also sends him photos from Farfetch, a website that has products from 500 luxury boutiques from around the world, Williams sends him screenshots of items that catch his attention as well.
“It’s an ever-flowing conversation,” the stylist said.
“You need that person, like Brandon, that’s on the inside that is going to talk to all the brands and look for all the pieces,” the student said.
After they discuss different looks, Williams, who’s based in Los Angeles, flies to Memphis once a month with 17 to 23 different game-day outfits for Gasol, as well as others for any special events he has in those four weeks. Gasol’s most desired clothing brands are Amiri, Daniel Patrick, Embellish, John Varvatos, Lost & Found and Saint Laurent, with his favorite shoes being from Daniel Patrick, Del Toro and Mezlan from Spain (where he’s from). Gasol, who likes to wear skullies, also revamped his collection of suits, the preferred attire of his older brother, Pau, who plays for the Spurs.
“I mix it up more than Pau. He’s more of a classic look,” Gasol said. “It’s good that the NBA allows guys to express themselves differently going to the games and postgames. I think that gives players a platform to showcase themselves and how they want to dress up.”
Gasol and Williams work with the brands on custom-made sizes and even designs from scratch. “We’re creating our own art,” Gasol said. Williams has been impressed with Gasol’s “very particular eye” about fashion, and his “awareness about different fabrics.” While Gasol said he hasn’t completely found his style yet, he knows he likes clothes at certain lengths with earthy colors, notably black, brown, green and grey.
“I like the fabrics that are more nature-based with a little texture, and they’re long,” he said. “I have really long legs, so you want longer clothes to even your body; they make it more proportional. And losing some weight helped a lot to make me more comfortable about what I was wearing. I’m really happy with where things are heading and I’m just excited for more. Fashion is an unlimited world.”
Last summer, Gasol attended the 080 Barcelona Fashion event in his hometown, and he recently commissioned his first photo shoot in Memphis for his own portfolio. Up next, in addition to the upcoming GQ and Esquire opportunities in Spain, he wants to attend more fashion shows after the season and beyond.
“I want to learn, I want to see things, I want to meet people,” he said. “I like engaging designers because I like the way they think and the way they process their career. If I can help a brand become bigger by doing a photo shoot, I like that, too. So I think relationships in this world are huge.”
“He has a sincere interest to become more than just a basketball player,” Williams said. “We’re literally creating what people will see from Marc Gasol worldwide as a brand. So philanthropy, community, style influencer, brand ambassador, father figure, leader—all these things. All of that is a shift and it’s to get to the opportunities that let him shine, like red carpets and photo shoots and magazine features.”
Gasol’s next big stage will be in New Orleans for All-Star Weekend, and working with Williams, he’ll be getting fitted for the big game next Sunday and other NBA events. But Gasol admits he would be happier being an All-Star if Conley was on the West team with him. He’s never been. That special connection—from basketball to fashion—represents the close-knit bond they and their teammates have in Memphis, where the Spaniard moved for high school.
“Our group has been together for a long time. We are in the community of Memphis. Our people are just all supporters,” he said. “Last year with all the injuries, we took a little hit, but I think this year people are engaged with the team and we’re really well-represented by the players. And we want to keep building. Winning a championship for the city would mean the world, would mean everything.”